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Southern Az's remaining indie hospitals announce alliance

While the number of locally run hospitals is shrinking in Southern Arizona, five independent nonprofit medical facilities announced this week that they have formed the Southern Arizona Hospital Alliance to improve care and reduce costs. The group includes Tucson Medical Center and hospitals in Benson, Bisbee, Safford and Willcox.

The group will "leverage existing relationships and enhance each of our unique strengths, while allowing us to improve clinical care coordination and access to a higher level of care throughout Southern Arizona," said TMC CEO Judy Rich. "We're stronger when we work together."

Others joining the nonprofit alliance are Benson Hospital, Copper Queen Community Hospital in Bisbee, Mount Graham Regional Medical Center in Safford, Northern Cochise Community Hospital in Willcox.

"Participating hospitals will not only have stronger alignment to better serve patients, but will also allow for greater efficiencies in purchasing, insurance and electronic medical records," said a news release from the group.

Each of the participating medical centers will remain independently managed.

"Through this alliance, the Benson area will have expanded specialty physician coverage, thus eliminating long travel for many people to see a quality doctor," said Rich Polheber, CEO of Benson Hospital.

"We hope to leverage best practices and resources while achieving economies of scale to improve patient care" through the group, said Jim Dickson, CEO of Copper Queen. "We hope to keep healthcare under the control and ownership of each community."

The group "provides strength in numbers, from reducing costs, to sharing resources, and enhancing access to specialization," said Mark Marchetti of the Mount Graham hospital in Safford.

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Other local hospitals have recently joined out-of-town management groups.

In March, Tucson's University of Arizona Health Network merged with Phoenix-based Banner Health, a nonprofit that runs hospitals in seven states.

Tucson's Carondelet Health Network, with three Southern Arizona hospitals, is in the process of being sold to Texas-based Tenet Healthcare Corp. and California-based Dignity Health. Carondelet St. Mary's, Carondelet St. Joseph's and Carondelet Holy Cross in Nogales will be 60 percent owned by for-profit Tenet Healthcare when the deal is complete.

The pending deal led the Tucson Centurions fundraising group to recently withdraw support from the hospital network, because the for-profit nature of the Texas company didn't match the booster group's goals.

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